Two days have passed since the World Culture Festival drew to a close. It’s now time to assess the loss caused to flora and fauna on several acres of Yamuna riverbed, the venue of the event organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living.
If green activists are to be believed, the event caused extensive damage to the riverbed and wiped out whatever little greenery left on it. They say it will take more than ten years to undo the damage done to its biodiversity.
After the three-day cultural extravaganza, the area is abandoned in utter squalor. Wrappers, empty bottles of Sri Sri brand, polythene bags and leftover stale food – debris of human waste – abound the makeshift venue of the festival that drew at least 15 lakh visitors.
Akash Vashist, an environment activist, said, “The filth will cause irreversible damage to the environment in due course of time. If only the organisers had issued some dos and don'ts to the people who came to attend the festival, the banks of Yamuna could have been saved from the damage.”
According to the estimation of another green activist, Vikrant Tongad, it will cost the government Rs 120 crore to restore the flora and fauna of the floodplain. He said the wetland rich with vegetation used to be home and source of sustenance for several birds, animal species and insects.
Floodplains happen to be ideal breeding ground for birds and river animals alike. But it has been sacrificed to pave way for the cultural show. Levelling of the riverbed for the event was the singular most destructive activity undertaken by the organisers of the event. As its immediate adverse effect, the natural flow of river is bound to be disturbed.
Vikrant Tongad said if the government is serious on restoring the river to its original form, it should immediately constitute an expert committee under the supervision of National Green Tribunal (NGT) to conduct a scientific study to assess the actual damage.
According to an estimation, as many as 400 saplings have been damaged and branches of several trees pruned.
Crops too suffered major losses as paths to the venue were made through cultivable area. While farmers have been compensated for the loss of crop this time, Chaudhary Baleshar, a farmer, wondered who will help them in their effort to reconvert the land into cultivable fields, which will take many months.